Americanism & Patriotism

Flag Etiquette

When to Display your Flag

The flag should be displayed, from sunrise to sunset, on all days when the weather permits, especially on:
New Year’s Day, January 1.
Inauguration Day.
Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Third Monday in January.
Lincoln’s Birthday.
Washington’s Birthday, February 22.
Easter Sunday.
Mother’s Day, Second Sunday in May.
Armed Forces Day, Third Saturday in May.
Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), Last Monday in May.
Flag Day, June 14th.
Independence Day, July 4th.
Labor Day, First Monday in September.
Constitution Day, September 17th.
Columbus Day, October 12th.
Navy Day.
Veterans Day, November 11th.
Thanksgiving Day, Fourth Thursday in November.
Christmas Day, December 25th.
Election Days (various).
Federally observed dates of the above holidays which may be different from the actual dates.
Such days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States.
State and Local Holidays.

foldingFolding the Flag

 

1. Bring the striped half up over the blue field.
2. Then fold it in half again.
3. Bring the lower striped corner to the upper edge forming a triangle.
4. Then fold the upper point in to form another triangle. Continue until the entire length of the flag is folded.
5. When you get near the end – nothing but the blue field showing – tuck the last bit into the other folds to secure it.

Why The American Flag is Folded 13 Times

Have you ever noticed on TV or at military funerals that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? Each fold of the U.S. flag has an important meaning. We have verified its accuracy at the U.S. Air Force Academy Web site [go to main page, then click on “Information”, then on “Flags”].

1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

2. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

3. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

4. The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

5. The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.”

6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they are found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

9. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

10. The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

11. The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

12. The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

13. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation’s motto, “In God We Trust”. After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones. Those who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.

Our Flag – Frequently Asked Questions

1: Can a flag that has been used to cover a casket be displayed after its original use?

A: There are no provisions in the Flag Code to suggest otherwise. It would be a fitting tribute to the memory of the deceased veteran and their service to a grateful nation if their casket flag were displayed.

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2: Can the United States flag be displayed on days when the weather is inclement?

A: The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather (nylon or other non-absorbent material) flag is displayed. However, most all flags are made of all weather materials. (Ref Flag Code 6(c))

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3: What is the significance of displaying the flag at half-staff?

A: This gesture is a sign to indicate the nation mourns the death of an individual(s), such as death of the President or former President, Vice President, Supreme Court Justice, member of Congress, Secretary of an executive or military department, etc. Only the President of the United States or the Governor of the State may order the flag to be half-staffed. The honor and reverence accorded this solemn act is quickly becoming eroded by those individuals and agencies that display the flag at half-staff on inappropriate occasions without proper authority to do so. (ref: Flag Code 7(m))

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4: When the flag is not flown from a staff, how should it be displayed?

A: It should be displayed vertically, whether indoors or out, and suspended so that its folds fall free as though the flag were staffed. The stripes may be displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right; that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window of a home or a place of business, the flag should be displayed in the same way; that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. (Ref Flag Code 7(i))

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5: How are unserviceable flags destroyed?

A: The Flag Code suggests that, “when a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning.” For individual citizens, this should be done discreetly so the act of destruction is not perceived as a protest or desecration. Many American Legion Posts conduct Disposal of Unserviceable Flag Ceremonies on June 14, Flag Day. This ceremony creates a particularly dignified and solemn occasion for the retirement of unserviceable flags. (ref: Flag Code 8(k))

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6: Can the flag be washed or dry-cleaned?

A: Yes. There are no provisions of the Flag Code which prohibit such care. The decision to wash or dry-clean would be dependent on the material.

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7: Are you required to destroy the flag if it touches the ground?

A: Flag Code section 176b states that the flag should not touch anything beneath it such as the ground. This is stated to indicate that care should be exercised in the handling of the flag, to protect it from becoming soiled or damaged. You ARE NOT required to destroy the flag when this happens. As long as the flag remains suitable for display, even if washing or dry-cleaning (which is acceptable practice) is required, you may continue to display the flag as a symbol of our great country. (ref: Flag Code 8(b))

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8: What is the proper method for folding the flag?

A: The Flag Code does not require any specific method, however, there is a tradition that has developed over time. This method produces a triangular shaped form like that of a three corner hat with only the blue union showing. There is a diagram available on Folding the Flag that lists the steps involved.

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9: May a person, other than a veteran, have their casket draped with the flag of the United States?

A: Yes, although this honor is usually reserved for veterans or highly regarded state and national figures, the Flag Code does not prohibit this use.

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10: What is the significance of the gold fringe which we see on some American flags?

A: Records indicate that fringe was first used on the flag as early as 1835. It was not until 1895 it was officially added to the National flag for all regiments of the Army. For civilian use, fringe is not required as an integral part of the flag, nor can its use be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute. It is considered that fringe is used as an honorable enrichment only.

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11: What is meant by the flag’s own right?

A: The “right” as the position of honor developed from the time when the “right hand” was the “weapon hand” or “point of danger.” The right hand, raised without a weapon, was a sign of peace. The right hand, to any observer, is the observer’s left. Therefore, as used in the Flag Code, the flag and/or blue field is displayed to the left of the observer, which is the flag’s “own right.” (ref: Flag Code 7(d),(i)

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12: Is it proper to fly the flag of the United States at night?

A: The Flag Code states it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. (ref: Flag Code 6(a)) The American Legion interprets “proper illumination” as a light specifically placed to illuminate the flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.

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13: What should be the position of the flag when displayed from a staff in a church, public auditorium or other public meeting place, whether indoors or outdoors, on platform, or on the floor at ground level?

A: When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church, public auditorium or meeting place, the flag should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Prior to the Flag Code changes in 1976, the display procedure was somewhat different. Now the staffed flag should always be placed to the right of the speaker (observer’s left) without regard to a platform or floor level. (ref: Flag Code 7 (k))

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14: What are the penalties for the physical desecration of the flag?

A: There are currently no penalties for the physical desecration of the flag. The American Legion and other members of theCitizens Flag Alliance continue working towards securing a Constitutional amendment to protect the flag from physical desecration.

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